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Abstract

For much of its history as an independent nation, the government of Mexico provided a wide range of publicly-funded social services for the poor. Such ''poverty alleviation'' efforts included a free milk program, subsidies for the poor farmers, and support for improved infrastructure in poor regions. Historically, such programs had been viewed as core parts of the Mexican state, and as both unquestioned and unquestionable. In the late 1990s, however, in part because of an increasingly-competitive political environment, legislation was enacted that required a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of such social programs. The goal of evaluation, however, begged the question of how to evaluate. This case describes the efforts of one major branch of the Mexican government - the Ministry of Social Development, whose Spanish acronym was SEDESOL - to design and implement an evaluation approach for the wide range of social programs it funded. The Ministry would have to consider such issues as what sort of data to seek, what sort of data could be obtained, and even how to determine who the actual, living beneficiaries of various programs were. To do so, it established a new Division of Strategic Planning and Evaluation. This case raises fundamental questions both about the criteria and the means for program evaluation in the public sector.

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Abstract

For much of its history as an independent nation, the government of Mexico provided a wide range of publicly-funded social services for the poor. Such ''poverty alleviation'' efforts included a free milk program, subsidies for the poor farmers, and support for improved infrastructure in poor regions. Historically, such programs had been viewed as core parts of the Mexican state, and as both unquestioned and unquestionable. In the late 1990s, however, in part because of an increasingly-competitive political environment, legislation was enacted that required a formal evaluation of the effectiveness of such social programs. The goal of evaluation, however, begged the question of how to evaluate. This case describes the efforts of one major branch of the Mexican government - the Ministry of Social Development, whose Spanish acronym was SEDESOL - to design and implement an evaluation approach for the wide range of social programs it funded. The Ministry would have to consider such issues as what sort of data to seek, what sort of data could be obtained, and even how to determine who the actual, living beneficiaries of various programs were. To do so, it established a new Division of Strategic Planning and Evaluation. This case raises fundamental questions both about the criteria and the means for program evaluation in the public sector.

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